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How to Teach Kids Goal Setting and Why


two kids looking at tablet underneath blanket

No one can see into the future. Being able to set goals can help you get there, however. According to psychologists, setting goals can trigger new positive behaviors that better your ability to focus, feel motivated, and achieve the results you desire. All of this applies to adults, but goal setting can also be invaluable for children.


How can you teach your child to start setting their own goals for personal success? Here’s a step-by-step glance at the process.

Talk About It

As a parent or nanny, children look up to you. Depending on the child’s age, you might start by talking about some of your own goals with them. Are you trying to run faster? Are you hoping to deepen your close relationships? Kids can often understand bigger concepts if we translate them into a way that is meaningful to them.


Talk about one of your goals and how you are trying to accomplish it. Discuss with your kids how setting their own goals can help them have really amazing experiences in their life. Are they trying to learn to ride a bike? Or maybe they’re hoping to raise a certain amount of money for their school or a local charity? Start a discussion.

Gather Ideas

Once you’ve opened the topic, challenge your child to set one or two of their own goals. To do this, have them gather ideas. What’s important to them? List the possible goals on a piece of paper. No goal is too big or too small. It’s all about brainstorming.


Talk About Short Term vs Long Term Goals

Psychologists say that part of working successfully towards achievement involves setting short-term, as well as long-term, goals. Walk your child through the process. If your child’s favorite goal will take months to complete, it might be easy for them to give up along the way. Help them break it down. Are they trying to read their first chapter book? Set smaller goals throughout the week. Ask them how many pages they think they can read in one evening. That’s their first goal.

Let Your Child Choose

Once you have a list of long and short-term goals, help your child choose a few to work towards. It’s at this point that a small reality check comes in. If they want to grow wings and learn to fly, help them out! You might point out that while humans can’t fly, we can learn to pilot an airplane. Remind them that this is something they might like to do as a teenager or an adult.


You also might want to follow the Three W’s. Ask the questions “Who can help?”, “What do I need to do?” and “When can it happen?” Adjust your child’s list to involve realistic goals they can achieve on their own or with help from people they know.

Make Goals Measurable

Remember to help your child create measurable goals. Are they trying to go faster? Are they trying to be happier? Talk about how they will measure their own success.


Check-In and Support Your Child

Remember to ask your child how they are doing as they go. Do they need a bit more help? Are they happy with their results? Provide support.

Celebrate Small Victories

Celebrate success big and small. It can be useful to celebrate your child’s attempt at something even if they don’t succeed in meeting their goals. Remind them to have fun! The learning is in the journey. Keep it playful. Did they get partway? Did they not meet their goal but learn something new? Every aspect counts. Celebrate them!



Goal-setting is something that can take time to practice and learn. By helping your child learn to set realistic and meaningful goals, you help them improve their confidence and sense of independence. Goal-setting allows kids to learn about their own strengths and weaknesses. It also helps reveal how to persevere when things don’t go exactly as planned. Goals can help your child improve their focus, practice accountability, and create a sense of working towards the future.


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